Music therapy is an allied health profession and one of the expressive therapies, consisting of an interpersonal process in which a trained music therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their health.
Previous research has indicated that psychiatric patients favor music therapy (Heaney, 1992; Silverman, 2006a) . Additionally, participants with positive past perceptions of music therapy may have encouraged their peers to attend these sessions noting that they would enjoy and benefit from the music therapy session. For whatever reasons, it seems that patients enjoy music therapy and enthusiastically attend sessions.
The benefits of music therapy have received attention in the popular press and professional research journals (Cassileth, Vickers, & Magill, 2003; Marwick, 2000; "Music as medicine," 2003; Sammon, 1997; Ziporyn, 1984). Researchers and clinicians have demonstrated that music therapy can improve health outcomes in surgery, cardiology, obstetrics, and oncology. Increased relaxation, decreased anxiety and pain, and improved mood are some of the positive outcomes associated with music therapy interventions (Aldridge, 1993; Standley, 2000).
When discussing with a group of patients after being treated with music therapy, Lcngdoblcr and Kicssling (1989) found that group music therapy, as a specific psychotherapeutic treatment, offers psychological support, relieves anxiety and depression and possibly helps with the difficult process of coping with the disease individually. Their results are based on experiences with a musictherapy group of 225 hospital inpatients with multiple sclerosis, who participated in a 6-week group music therapy program.
O'Callaghan (1996) encourages patients to write songs about their own experiences. Song-writing offers a retrospective view of life and gives expression to the physical, psychosocial, and emotional needs of patients, even in advanced stages of MS.
The use of eye gaze and facial expressions naturally accompanies many music activities and for group settings is necessary for group participation and interaction. The natural structure of many music activities provides a non-threatening environment to elicit communication. The sequence of activities during a music session also provides natural opportunities for gestures, verbalizations, communicative functions, and repair strategies (attempts to repair a communication breakdown, such as asking for clarification or repeating/rephrasing a statement) to be expressed.
Mapp said music therapy is appropriate for traumatized children, who in many cases have difficulty verbalizing pain.
"Children don't have a way to express what has been locked up in them," Mapp said. "Through music they can strengthen and build up their feelings."
Behrens, who is the director of the college's music therapy program, said she has seen children thrive as a result of music therapy.
"Music is used in therapy through a number of techniques, including instrumental and vocal improvisation, songwriting, structured instrument-playing, song singing, vocal exercises, and movement to music," she said.
"Music therapy is commonly practised with people with disabilities and special needs, children in early-intervention settings or with learning difficulties, older adults and those in nursing care facilities, and adults and children in mental health centres, who have acquired brain injuries, or are in hospital."
Training for music therapists includes a four-year degree from an accredited music therapy program, proficiency as a musician, a six-month internship and board certification.
Music therapy works, Young says, because music stimulates all parts of the brain. Many of the patients have Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, or have suffered a stroke, brain stem hemorrhage or other brain injury. Music therapists work with physicians to determine what part of the brain was damaged. They use music to try to stimulate that area of the brain.
Every week, three music therapists from MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care crisscross the city and suburbs to sing songs to the dying. With guitars strapped to their backs, a flute or tambourine and a songbook jammed in their backpacks, they play music for more than 100 patients, in housing projects, in nursing homes and even in a lavish waterfront home. The time for chemotherapy and radiation is over.
Ms. Maratos notes that music therapy might be particularly useful for adolescents who may reject a traditional form of counseling. Some older patients also may not be comfortable talking about their feelings, “but do tend to express themselves through song,” she said.
“I think we can be reasonably confident that music therapy has an effect,” Ms. Maratos said. “Music therapy is often used where more conventional therapies are not as likely to be as accepted or tolerated.”